I had never heard of Maggie McNeill before a week or so ago when, in the aftermath of my ridiculously stupid comment about Fox News reporters dressing like hookers, she fired off one of the most surprising Tweets of my life on the information superhighway.
Like many, Maggie was insulted by my words. But instead of wondering how I could dare compare the women of Fox News to hookers, she, um, sorta wanted to know why I’d compare hookers to the women of Fox News. Or, really, why I chose to use a cliched insult to degrade female sex workers.
So, well, that was a first.
Then I saw Maggie had a website—an amazing, detailed, beautifully written website about the ups and downs, highs and lows of a prostitute’s life. I sat there reading for, oh, an hour or so. And not because of the sex or pictures. Nope, it was simply a fascinating glance into a world (and profession) I knew little about. It also happened to be delivered by a prostitute who received her BA in English from the University of New Orleans in 1987 and her MLIS from Louisiana State University six years later. Having worked as an underpaid librarian post-degree, Maggie—in need of money—turned to stripping, then to life as a call girl and madam.
She’s never looked back.
Here, the 243rd Quaz takes you inside her life and inside her bedroom. She hates toe cheese, has never heard of Todd Hundley and considers monogamy an ideal lacking ideal. You can follower her on Twitter here, and visit her website, The Honest Courtesan, here.
Maggie McNeill, welcome to the world of the Quaz …
JEFF PEARLMAN: Maggie, so I’m psyched you’re here, and I wanna start with a question I’ve never asked anyone before: So you reached out to me, via Twitter, after I ripped some Fox News female on-air people as dressing like “hookers.” I meant that they were dressed inappropriately scantily; that the network tries selling sex via women employees. I’m curious why this bothered/offended you. Because, as a prostitute, don’t you dress as such as part of the gig? I’m NOT mocking—genuinely interested.
MAGGIE MCNEILL: Well, I just found it annoying because I’m rather tired of my profession being used as the go-to insult for anyone female. We’re portrayed as stupid, ignorant, classless, tasteless, vulgar and above all, expendable. We’re one of the few minority groups it’s still considered PC to insult and use as the butt of jokes, including jokes in which we’re subjected to violence such as rape or murder; a few years ago an Obama administration crony even thought it was cool to make a joke at an official White House function about a prostitute being gang-raped by prisoners, and everybody laughed. Hahahaha! So funny! In truth, the great majority of my friends are whores, and they are among the smartest, wisest, most generous, most loyal, most discreet and most poised women you’d ever hope to meet. As for dress, most of the whores I know dress attractively but modestly unless they’re A) receiving a client at their own incall space, and B) he specifically requested otherwise. Most women going to clubs dress more “sluttily” than the actual pros I know do. It’s true that some street workers dress in a more overtly “sexy” manner to attract attention (that’s called “advertising”), but even that is less true than it used to be due to increased police harassment. And besides, street workers are only about 10% or so of all sex workers; the majority are internet escorts now. Even in pre-Internet days, street workers were always just a very visible minority.
J.P.: How does this work? What I mean is, someone calls you. They want an experience. Where does it go from there? And what if they show up drunk? Or they’re just disgusting—I dunno, tons of acne, or really bad tuna breath?
M.M.: When someone calls me (or more often, emails me) I first ask him if he’s seen my website because the answers to a lot of questions he might ask are there, including my prices. If he’s smart, he’ll use the booking form I have on the site, because that shows he’s paying attention to my ad copy and is willing to follow instructions (which lets me know he’ll probably respect my wishes in session as well). I ask gentlemen who approach me for references, meaning I want the names and email addresses and/or phone numbers of other ladies he’s seen so I can call and ask them what he was like – is he nice and respectful, or will he try to push my boundaries? Is he generous, or will he try to haggle? Is he prompt, hard to deal with, courteous, rough, or what? Most importantly, is he a cop? Because the majority of the danger in my line of work isn’t from clients, good or bad; it’s from cops, who even when they don’t arrest and cage us may rape, rob or extort us, or worse. Most normal guys try to be on their best behavior when visiting sex workers because they know we’ll give them bad references if they aren’t. As for stuff like poor hygiene, that is unpleasant when it happens and I’d definitely mention it if another lady called me for a referral, but it isn’t that common and it isn’t really as repulsive as bad manners, rudeness, roughness, cheapness, etc.
J.P.: On your website you write, “Somehow, neither my mother nor the nuns who taught me ever managed to instill in this little Catholic girl any sense that sex is dirty, bad, wrong or otherwise distasteful, and without that unhealthy concept imbedded in one’s psyche prostitution is no different from any other service one might perform for hire.” And it’s a riveting sentence, because it flies in the face of what we’re told repeatedly. So do you think people misunderstand prostitution, or that we—as a people—have a wrongheaded take on what sex is and is supposed to be?
M.M.: Both. People have really dumb, childish, fantastical ideas about sex; they think it’s magical or sacred or whatever, because in ancient times religion larded it with all this mumbo-jumbo and people still haven’t let go of that, even if they’re irreligious or even atheists. And starting about 200 years ago (after the French Revolution), secular governments started horning in on the act as well, and now it’s embedded in the public consciousness that government “should” or even “has to” interfere in private sexual behavior, in the name of “regulation” or “order” or “public decency” or some other bullshit. Nurses clean shit off of bedridden patients’ bottoms, doctors probe their genitalia, masseuses put their hands all over people’s bodies, day-care workers tend to the care of their children. Yet nobody thinks any of these extremely intimate activities needs to be banned, and nobody pretends that nurses must be coerced into nursing. Furthermore, it’s A-OK with a lot of the anti-prostitution crowd if a woman screws dozens or hundreds of strangers, as long as she claims she did it for “pleasure”; it only becomes a problem in these fanatics’ minds if she actually gains a concrete outcome from it.
J.P.: You’re married. I’m surprised by this. I’m not saying I should be, but I am. So how does that work, emotionally? I would not be comfortable with my wife having sex with other guys. So, I guess, how did you meet your husband? How did you come to an understanding? What are the complexities, complications?
M.M.: Actually, we’re not married any more; we amicably divorced last year. It had nothing to do with my work; in fact, we got along better when I was working than after I retired. I’m just a very intense person, and not easy to live with, but as long as we live apart we get along wonderfully. We still talk several times a week and he’s coming to visit me in a few months. He was a client when we met, and things just went from there; we were together for 14 years in all, though we were estranged for the last few. I think the best way for you to understand his feelings would be for you to read an interview with him I published five years ago, but the short version is that he understands that my work is just that—work—and that my clients pose no greater threat to my relationships than they would if I did any other job. If someone can’t wrap his or her brain around that—and certainly not everyone can—it’s best they don’t even THINK about dating a sex worker, except professionally of course.
J.P.: You’re an absolutely beautiful writer, which makes me even more fascinated by your background. So … what’s your background? How did this happen? Soup to nuts? I know you’re a call girl, I know you worked as a stripper. But how did this happen?
M.M.: I’ve always had a very pragmatic view of sex; it’s always been a thing I used to obtain other things I wanted. Some of those things include intimacy, fun, adventure, money, social clout, information, and assistance … I use it to show gratitude or empathy, to help friends, even to manipulate people (but never for evil purposes; I’m actually very moral and would never harm anyone except in self-defense). I took money for sex casually and sporadically from 1985 until about ’87, and when my first divorce in ’95 left me with about $90,000 of bills on a $24,000 librarian’s salary, it didn’t require any huge paradigm shift for me to go back to my old standby, trading sex. The only reason it took me a couple of years (I started stripping in September of ‘97) to get around to it was that my first husband was emotionally abusive, and my self-esteem was really screwed up for a while. It took me that long to realize that I was still hot enough to make a living by my sex appeal.
J.P.: One of your posts contains a really loaded point: “The typical black man seems to believe that the point of intercourse is to damage a woman’s sexual equipment as much as possible.” I would think one’s approach to sex would be more based on, oh, geography, parents, what you’ve seen in your personal life. So why do you think black men, as a general rule, behave in a certain way? And do white men? Asians? Does it apply, in one way or another, to all groups?
M.M.: *Sigh* Every writer, especially when first starting out, writes a few things that, on looking back, cause her to say something like “Was I smoking crack when I wrote that?” In fact, there are a LOT of things I wrote my first year that make me feel that way. However, I’m a big believer in transparency; before the Internet, one couldn’t just “un-publish” embarrassing articles, and I don’t think it’s ethical or even wise to try that now just because one can. You can’t un-ring a bell, and you can’t unsay hurtful things, and to attempt to do so by shoving mistakes – even ugly ones – down the memory hole is to attempt to rewrite the past, a favorite pastime of censors and tyrants through the ages. I’m a real, flawed human being, and though I’m not a racist or any other flavor of bigot sometimes things don’t really come out like I wanted them to. The post to which you refer is hands-down my most controversial; there are a lot of people who have called me a racist and worse because of it. However, I’ve also received a lot of mail from black men thanking me for explaining it, even if they sometimes (rightfully) chastise me for the crappy, sloppy, careless, insensitive, amateurish, assholish, and unnecessarily hurtful way I expressed it. So I really prefer not to opine any more on the subject; anything I say would probably be viewed in the worst possible light, and I don’t wish to inadvertently cause any more hurt than I already have.
J.P.: Guys are assholes. It’s been proven time after time. I’m guessing—in your work—you see men often at their worst. What does that look like? And do you also see men at their best? And what does that look like?
M.M.: I do indeed see men at their best and worst. At their worst, they’re vicious, barely-human thugs who collect in packs to deceive, rape, rob, threaten, brutalize, cage and destroy the lives of women they’ve never met before, rationalizing their atrocities with excuses like “the law.” “decency” and, worst of all, service to an “authority” who pretends to know better than me what I should and shouldn’t do with my own body and my own life. At their best, they are good, warm, kind, generous, tender and loving to women they don’t really know, have nothing to gain from, and may never meet again, for no reason other than basic human goodness.
J.P.: Is it weird, or uncomfortable, or … anything, when married men sleep with you? Obviously you’re doing nothing wrong, but … I dunno. Do you/did you ever feel bad? And, along those lines, you write a lot about guilt and repression. Do you have clients who cum and are immediately overecome (no pun intended) by guilt? Is that annoying, depressing, neither? Do they expect you to then play therapist?
M.M.: The majority of adult men I’ve been to bed with, from the age of 15 until now, have been married; I’d say at least two-thirds of them, maybe more. It’s no more weird or uncomfortable to me than any other fact of life; in fact, whores save far more marriages than we damage. Humans aren’t designed for monogamy; that’s the invention of agricultural societies with a vested interest in knowing whose kids are whose. It can’t work in the form society pretends it must, which is why whores are necessary; since we aren’t interested in married men except as sources of income, we don’t pose any threat to their wives the way a mistress might. Prostitution is the secret ingredient that makes monogamy possible, which means it isn’t hyperbole to say we make Western civilization possible. The ancients understood that; it’s the reason that in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the world’s oldest surviving story, it is a prostitute who tames the wild man Enkidu, enabling him to live in civilized society.
To answer the second part of your question: it’s not at all unusual that guys are overcome by guilt or shame as soon as they climax; it’s certainly not a majority or even a substantial minority, but we all see that from time to time. Usually when they’re like that they get quiet and either rush out the door or shoo the lady out (depending on whether it’s her place or his) within a few minutes. It’s not annoying except in the rare case when the feeling of tension is palpable, and even then that vanishes as soon as either he or I goes.
J.P.: Might sound weird, but what are the keys to absolutely great sex? I feel like most of us don’t know, and maybe you do.
M.M.: The most important key to being a great lover (which does not guarantee great sex) is paying attention. When having sex with your partner, pay close attention to his or her reactions: if there is none, try something else; if the reaction seems negative, stop what you’re doing immediately; if the reaction seems positive, keep doing more of that. It may seem silly, but you’d be surprised how few people actually do it. Another important key is to listen and keep an open mind; a lot of what holds people back from really great sex is shame and fear of the partner’s reaction. When you’ve got that stuff on your mind you can’t relax, and if you can’t relax you can’t surrender to the experience. When two people trust each other enough to share what they want without fear of shaming or rejection, there’s a lot better chance for really good, mutually-fulfilling sex.
J.P.: What’s the money story from your career? Best story you feel OK telling …
M.M.: I think the most interesting story, with the most complex implications, happened soon after Hurricane Katrina. I was the only escort in town for over two months, so I was extremely busy, yet I didn’t have much more sex than usual. Why? Because a lot of them just wanted company. I remember one in particular; he was in charge of a crew that was literally pulling bodies from the wreckage, and he was considerably stressed (as I’m sure you can imagine). I got undressed and lay down beside him, but when I went to start undressing him he stopped me and said, “No, I don’t want that.” I looked at him quizzically, and he explained that he was married and didn’t want to cheat on his wife, but said “I see so much ugliness every day, I just want to look at something beautiful for a while.” It struck me that it was a terrible shame that his wife could never be told of this demonstration of his loyalty, because instead of cherishing that he was only looking and cuddling when he could’ve had sex, she probably would’ve been angry or hurt that he had called me at all. Which is … spectacularly dumb, but typical. It also demonstrates the falsity of the evil lies spread by prohibitionists, who pretend that our clients are predatory, abusive monsters looking for warm holes to penetrate; this sweet, gentle, loyal man was in pain, and he wanted the magic of simple human contact to assuage that hurt. And that sort of client is far closer to the norm than the kind of misogynistic jerk who populates prohibitionist propaganda.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH MAGGIE MCNEILL:
• Why Maggie McNeill? How’d you pick the name?: ”Maggie” was my childhood nickname, from my middle name (some friends still used it into my early twenties). “McNeill” is my mother’s maiden name.
• Rank in order (favorite to least): Abigail Van Buren, Todd Hundley, “Thelma & Louise,” tomato soup, Arsenio Hall, July 4, Mark Twain, the Bible, nipple rings, the two-point conversion, Tito Jackson: I had to look up “Todd Hundley” and “two-point conversion.” Sports are not my thing, I’m afraid. So … tomato soup, Mark Twain, the Bible, July 4th, nipple rings, Thelma & Louise, Tito Jackson, Abigail Van Buren, Arsenio Hall, Todd Hundley, the two-point conversion
• Your 30-word take on Pretty Woman: Prohibitionists whine that it’s unrealistic because Vivian isn’t a pimped drug addict. IOW, it follows Hollywood’s unrealistic stereotypes rather than theirs. A Disney romantic comedy, and they expect cinema verite?
• One question you would ask Ted Cruz were he here right now?: “How much longer do you think the American people will buy the notion that the Republicans and Democrats are substantially different?”
• Bigger turn off—a chronically dripping nose or toe cheese?: Toe cheese. No contest.
• Five sexiest movies you’ve ever seen?: Off the top of my head, and may be different tomorrow: Story of O, Eyes Wide Shut, Secretary, The Hunger, The Black Cat (1934). Don’t try to understand that last one; it’s a weird horror-fetishistic thing I have.
• Someone farts during sex—what usually happens immediately afterward? Ignore, laugh, make a grossed-out face?: Professional sex: ignore. Non-professional sex with a man: grossed-out face. Non-professional sex with a woman: laugh.
• Three memories from your first-ever date?: I honestly can’t remember my first official “date”, so here are three memories from my first sex: It was on my 15th birthday (Halloween, 1981); he was an 18-year-old LSU freshman who is now a prominent journalist; it was at a friend’s house, in her bed, while my chaperon had gone to pick up a girl who didn’t have a ride to the party.
• Am I allowed to say something if I’m working in a coffee shop and someone’s talking loudly on his/her phone? Or is that their right and I need to shut up?: If you’re working there, it’s probably wisest to defer to your boss unless you don’t mind losing your job on principle. But if you’re a fellow customer, hell yeah say something.
• Do you believe in monogamy at all? Like, does it have its place? Or is it just some implemented idea from long ago that sucks?: Well, I think a kind of monogamy can work for some people, though they both need to consider what they might do if they catch the other cheating. And if they’re going to go outside without permission, it should be with a pro.